Bay Area transit ridership
down despite subsidies, enticements
In today’s Chronicle,
Matier & Ross write about how regional transit
ridership in the Bay Area has been down for decades
despite the many billions of dollars MTC has put into
construction projects. This begs the question “Why?”
For us, the answer is simple: MTC’s unique
combination of indifference, incompetence and
unwillingess to do the hard work of policy
development has created a politicized unaccountable
system that works great for contractors, but does
little for Bay Area residents and commuters. See
related several posts on this site:
case study we did on MTC called Politics Trumps
and a comment letter on how to set up a new
transportation pot of money so that it is not
wasted, as MTC’s resources have been.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
MATIER AND ROSS
Bay Area transit ridership down despite subsidies,
By Matier & Ross
February 6, 2015 Updated: February 7, 2015 6:20pm
Despite tens of billions of dollars in government
subsidies and countless incentives, the percentage of
Bay Area commuters taking mass transit hasn’t gone up
a bit in more than two decades — in fact, it’s
A new study by the Metropolitan Transportation
Commission found that while ridership has hit record
numbers on BART and Caltrain as the Bay Area’s
population has grown, per capita usage of transit has
dropped 14 percent since 1991.
In other words, despite all the BART extensions and
the new light-rail and bus lines, the slice of the
morning commuters jumping into their cars to go work
has pretty much stayed the same since before Bill
Clinton was president.
“It’s true — it’s as difficult as ever to entice
people out of their cars,” said Randy Rentschler, a
spokesman for the transportation commission. “But
transit remains important to mobility in the Bay
According to the study, Bay Area residents took 1.35
million trips on public transit on a typical weekday
in 2013. That’s up from the depths of the recession,
but it is still significantly lower than peak
ridership levels in 2001, when 1.45 million public
transit trips were taken every day.
The “whys” behind the decline depend on whom you ask.
Susan Shaheen, with UC Berkeley’s Transportation
Sustainability Research Center, points to everything
from rising transit fares to the need to make
transfers to people’s desire for “personal space.”
East Bay developer Jim Ghielmetti, who sits on the
California Transportation Commission, says some of it
is where we’ve built transit lines.
“The routes clearly don’t match where the jobs are
going,” Ghielmetti said, pointing to the campus-style
business centers on the Peninsula and the East Bay
that are not linked to mass transit.
Another issue is the politics of mass-transit
spending. Millions have been pointed at bike lanes
and the Central Subway to San Francisco’s Chinatown,
while heavily populated corridors such as Mission
Street and Geary Boulevard remain bus-only
One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that car
use shows no sign of letting up.
“If you look over a long period of time, the cost of
owning a car has actually dropped,” Rentschler said.
“They are cheaper and more reliable than ever
And that can’t always be said of a bus.